“How are your children’s chores going at home?” Whoa! When I ask this question during a session with parents it brings on a crackling conversation with a wild range of responses. It starts out pretty positive – ” Oh. Chores. Pretty good actually.” Then – “Well, except for (insert chore here)”. And finally – “To tell the truth, chores are a mess in our house.”
At this point the discussion falls apart and out comes the frustration, anger, and maybe even some tears. So, as you read this, what are you thinking about chores in your own home? Would you like your children’s chores to go better?
Chief Chore Complaints
- Our kids just refuse.
- They fight with each other when we make them do chores.
- They do a lousy job.
- Instead of cleaning up, they just going their rooms and play
- We can’t agree about how to handle it so we (parents) just end up arguing with each other.
- We tried charts, money, and taking away privileges. Nothing works.
- I’m too tired to deal with it most of the time.
- Sometimes I just do the chore because it’s easier and I know it will get done.
- Chores, schmores. I give up.
Sound familiar? Even so, as the parents, we still believe in chores for our children because that’s what good parents believe. But we don’t always feel so effective when it comes to managing those chores.
Before we can make chores go well in our homes we have to know why we think they are important. Most parents see chores as a way to teach responsibility. We also want our children to develop the altruistic value of simply helping, solely for the sake of helping. Some of us just want the kids to clean up their mess and don’t you think that seems reasonable, too?
By definition in Merriam Webster’s big fat Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, a chore is “a task or duty, especially, one that is dull, difficult, or disagreeable.” Yep. Many chores can have a slightly not so glorious feel about them. And, it’s OK if we admit to ourselves that sometimes we get a little tired of, no, sick of, doing dishes or going to the dump.
So, we had better add teaching our children tolerance and acceptance as a reason to have them do a few chores. Much of life does turn out to be pretty hum drum, un-thrillling, mundane, repetitive, unexciting. The ordinary comes as part of just being alive on the planet. Developing the skill to accept is critical to the development of emotion regulation. And, emotion regulation does not mean we are always happy happy. It means we understand that emotions fluctuate and understand that we can tolerate these ups and downs, and some discomfort and hum-drum, without feeling life is unfair, or falling apart and complaining. Sounds good doesn’t it?
Set It Up For Success
For more detail on how to, read and print Chore Success – The ParentWhiz Guide
- Know why you want your youngsters to do chores. What do you want them to get out of it?
- Google “age appropriate chores” to get some idea of what you can expect of a child at different ages.
- Start young. If you didn’t start young, just start now.
- Teach, teach, teach. Assume no skills exist, and teach.
- Teach one chore at a time, not resentfully or sarcastically. Just teach well. Then, shadow your child a few times and back out.
- Use the short list method. Three or four for older kids. One or two for younger ones.
- Never put two kids on the same chore at the same time.
- Rotate the rotating chores no more often than once a week – on rotation day, which is always the same day each week.
- Do not pay for basic chores.
- Appreciate your children’s effort openly and regularly.
- Do not expect perfection.
How We Parents Wreck It
Truth – We parents are to main reason chores don’t go well.
- Expecting kids to like their chores and resenting them when they don’t. They don’t have to like their chores, they just need to do them respectfully and tolerantly.
- Over explaining why we do chores. When they ask us why, the answer is simply a pleasant, “Because that’s what we do.”
- Trying too hard to make chores fun. Dance and sing etc. Kids know this is just parents trying to get control of the situation by putting out a carrot. Plus, too many carrots, and carrots for the wrong thing, get children thinking every little thing in life has to be fun or it’s not worth doing.
- Not having, or going off the schedule. A schedule is critical.
- Using chores as a punishment.
- Complaining about chores ourselves.
- Expecting perfection.
So, yes. There will always be chores because they matter. And, there will always be more chores! So, chores, schmores, no big deal, right? S’mores? Now that is fun! Let’s get the chores done and go outside for some Saturday S’mores.
What strategies have you used to make chores go well in your home?
- Chore Success – The ParentWhiz Guide
- Age Appropriate Chore List (Printable) This list exists in many places on the Internet. It appears on the Maria Montessori Facebook page in the photos and credits the Flanders family 2013. An identical list appears in a NY Times article on chores and credits KJ Dell’Antonia 2014. I do not know who originally created this list. What I like about it is that it lists some chores we don’t often see on current chore lists, such as changing lightbulbs, trimming hedges, and peeling carrots and potatoes. And, this list is a hit with the parents in my office!